We Are All Wondrously Made (White Mass Homily)
Today we gather for what has now become a wonderful tradition in our archdiocesan Church, the celebration of the White Mass. This year, we are mindful that the Eucharistic Liturgy takes place in the midst of a Church-wide reflection on the nature and importance of the family.
Last Sunday in Rome at a solemn Mass concluding the first of two Synods on the Family, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminded all of us that we are all a part of God’s family and that we need to see in each other that beautiful relationship.
The Gospel for today is a reminder from Jesus himself of how we are to live and the frame of reference for our actions. When asked, “Which commandment is the greatest?” Jesus replied:
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus ties the two together because we are to see one another precisely in our relationship to God.
In his beautiful apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii gaudium), Pope Francis tells us that love is at the very core of how we identify God and therefore how we identify ourselves. We are to love our neighbor as our self.
Loving oneself is not that particularly difficult or challenging. In fact, for most of us, and here I speak now only for myself, it is easy to look in the mirror and exchange a smile of self-appreciation.
What Jesus asks us to do is now turn slightly from the mirror and look beyond. Why don’t we do that right now, why don’t we simply look to our right and our left? Now we see our neighbor, those whom Jesus says are our brothers and sisters. And Jesus tells us we are to love our brother and sister, our neighbor, just as we love our self. The Book of Genesis tells us, “God looked on everything he had made, and he found it very good.”
In all our diversity we are all wondrously made. God rejoices in all of his creation. That is why we are told he looked on everything he made and found it very good.
As the Canticle of Daniel, that forms a part of the Church’s morning prayer today tells us, all of God’s creation is intended to praise the Lord.
“Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord. Praise and exalt Him above all forever…all you sons and daughters, all you men and women of the earth, bless and praise the Lord.” There are no exceptions. Just as Jesus reminded us today, there are no exceptions. We are to love our neighbors, we are to love our brothers and sisters as our self. Each one of us in our own individuality, in our own uniqueness, not only manifests the glory of God, but because we are who we are, we actually bless and praise the Lord.
Every one of us in this Church is a member of God’s family. All of us have been invited to the table of the Lord. When we look at each other we are supposed to see and love one another as much as we love our self.
But there is still more. Not only did God create us as we are to manifest his glory, he sent his Son among us, the very image of the fullness of God, the one who was in the form of God and who emptied himself, taking on the form of us. Why? So that he could invite us to become adopted brothers and sisters – adopted children of God.
Today we recognize the presence of God in each one of us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in baptism. This Mass takes its very name, the White Mass, from the baptismal garment that each of us receives, is charged to cherish unblemished until the coming of the fullness of the kingdom.
Just as all of us are created by God as we are and all of us have a place at the table of the Lord through baptism, so those with special needs bring their own particular gifts to the Church and to our celebration today. Perhaps the gift that each special needs person has is the gift of a less complicated, less encumbered, less conditioned sense of God’s Spirit, God’s presence, God’s love.
Today as we look around this cathedral church, we recognize many, many, many manifestations of God’s love and, therefore, his kingdom breaking into this world.
One of those many manifestations of the goodness, the love, the greatness of God is the uniqueness of every special needs person – every special gifts person – and the realization that before God we are all children, before God, we all lay claim to his love in that divine Spirit within us that we received in baptism and that manifests itself in so many diverse, challenging and yet real ways.
Each of us is born with unique abilities and inabilities in body and mind. In baptism, however, we are born anew, receiving new life as we pass from the old order into a whole new creation in which we are alive in the Spirit. Through bodily immersion in water, a symbol both of death and new life, “baptism speaks to us of the incarnational structure of faith,” says Pope Francis. “Christ’s work penetrates the depths of our being and transforms us radically, making us adopted children of God and sharers in the divine nature” (Lumen fidei, 42).
“The Church is like a great orchestra in which there is variety,” Pope Francis teaches us. He goes on to say, “Everyone is different, different, each with their own qualities and that’s the beauty of the Church: everyone brings his or her own, what God gave them, to enrich others.”
To be certain, each of us is in need of others and each of us is enriched by others. We depend upon and are complemented by our spouses, children, siblings, friends, neighbors, co-workers. So it is that, in their own way, those of us who have various physical or mental challenges are enriched by the kindness of other people. However, in return all those around us who see in us and in our needs the face of God are made better by us.
As children of God, we are also heirs to his kingdom. This means that we all bear the responsibility of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. The greatest love we can give is to tell people about Jesus and invite them to encounter Him.
As heirs to God’s Kingdom, the best way for any of us to serve others is by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Each of us is called to courageously witness to the power of His love in our lives. If we’re not able to use words, we can smile for Jesus. If we cannot use our legs, we can hold others’ hands. If we speak to the world with American Sign Language, we can tell our friends that they too are invited to join us at the table of the Lord.
In his encyclical letter God is Love, Pope Benedict XVI instructs us that not only is God love and we are to love God but we are to see the love of God in our neighbor and manifest our love to our neighbor precisely because we see God in our neighbor.
Pope Francis who has captured the imaginations and hearts of people all around the world tells us the message is very simple. God loves each of us. We must embrace one another in that love and see in each other, not only the love of God but the image – the face – of God.